As I was desperately and failingly trying to fade into the beautiful, simplicity of sleep, pictures of friends and family visiting at the hospital kept flooding over me; one after another,(think slide show). It was like a flood gate bursting. Finally, here I am, an hour later to try to put those pictures into words. If I were to detail each of those snippets of time in one blog post, I am afraid the length would be a disadvantage. So, I decided to share the details of my memories just with sisters. Three specific moments that kept coming back to me tonight.
Brooke and Maddi
Brooke and Maddi are about as different as you can get in personality but in many ways they are kindred in their hearts. Growing up they had their usual sister rivalries, fights, irritation and disagreements and I am sure there will be more. When Maddi regained the use of her voice, one of the first words she said was “Brook-ee”. I can’t say for sure because I wasn’t inside Maddi’s head but the fact that she spent the huge effort to find the word, make the sounds and repeatedly say “Brook-ee” indicated a deep love for her sister during a time that Maddi was unable to do or say anything it is a true measure of sisterly love.
Brooke is the quiet type; she keeps to herself mostly, unless she is talking about History, Art or Historical Sewing. She uses her daily allotment of words in beautiful writing. Brooke is a little quirky, in High School, she liked to wear mismatch socks and shoes, her favorite pair were Converse with one yellow and one black shoe. I don’t think during school, I ever saw her wear a different pair of shoes except at church and only at my insistence. She even wore that pair to her High School Graduation. She wore the heels during the ceremony at my persistent nagging but promptly put on the Converse afterward.
I can’t recall how Brooke came to know that we needed high top shoes for Maddi to help her learn to walk again but on Brooke’s next visit to the hospital, the reciprocal mismatched set of Converse with the familiar black and yellow were dangling from her two fingers. She had a smug little smile on her face and oh how I had missed seeing that smile! As she placed the shoes on the end of Maddi’s bed I saw on each toe had the corresponding directional words; left and right, written in black letters to help Maddi gain some independence in getting her shoes on the corresponding feet. This gift was such a tender expression between sisters.
Brooke spent most of her time at the hospital coloring with Maddi. Maddi, of course had very little fine motor stamina but Brooke would wield the crayons with precision allowing Maddi to color what she could. Maddi’s walls were lined with the product of the quiet, patient love of a sister adding color to a lifeless and less than cheerful place.
I was overwhelmed at the magnitude of these gifts and the deep meaning buried in each deep colorful stroke and in the soles of those mismatched shoes. Watching Maddi with the “Bumble” given by Brooke, in her arms, grasping tightly to the hand of her older sister for balance, walking slowly and deliberately, hand in hand out to the car with occasional flash of yellow reminded me of the amazing power in the sister bond! I may even have dropped a tear or two, for sure my eyes were brimming and my throat was tight with stifled but still burning emotions.
I only have one sister and she is amazing! She and I are very much like Maddi and Brooke, so different but so much the same. Donna came often to the hospital to visit and she sat with Maddi when I had to leave. I am so grateful for her. Each time she came she brought me hope and reality. I can let her into the deepest part of my soul and I know it is safe with her. At the hospital she broke up my days, listened my rambling and helped drive out the isolation I felt.
One particular day, sitting across black metal tables that were better suited for a sunny day with flip flops and bronzed skin, I was introduced to “Sweet Cream” and “Cake Batter” ice cream with candy mixed in at Cold Stone Creamery. It was a little thing and I don’t have any idea what we talked about or the topics that we covered but as the memory came flooding back to me this evening I was struck with how much that meant to me!
Christmas Eve, Donna brought her family to South Davis Hospital and spent that evening with us there. I was living this nightmare and I didn’t want to be there on Christmas Eve and they came with laughter, conversation and gifts and made a party in a sterile, dreary room. Fourteen bodies including Grandma and Grandpa crammed into those same four walls and with the inside jokes that only years can provide I felt that Christmas wasn’t lost. I can’t even begin to explain how much I needed that!
Donna was there when I had to muster up the courage to walk into a room full of 14 experts and staff from South Davis Hospital. She gave me strength to fight that battle for Maddi when conflict resolution makes me want to vomit. She helped me take Maddi out to Chili’s in Salt Lake to save my sanity. It was seriously like a slide show as the memories kept flashing through my mind. All I can say is; Thanks to a loving God, for giving me a sister to share my life with, and thanks Donna for knowing what I needed at a time, when I wasn’t able ask.
Julie isn’t my sister in the biological sense but by marriage. DNA doesn’t matter to my heart. Julie came to the hospital every week with her fun kids, they were a great distraction. She brought me understanding and support. We didn’t do anything grand, all we did was talk and play with the kids but it was like bringing the sunshine indoors. It was at Julie’s voice that Maddi first confirm-ably turned her head. I was pretty sure she was turning her head to voice before but the “Julie Head Turn” was undeniable. I can’t remember how many times Julie sat with Maddi in the evenings but, just like with anyone who rendered that simple act of service, it was such a comfort to know that Maddi wasn’t alone. My heart was so torn between Salt Lake City and Logan, not being able to be there for my other kids during a time that was traumatic and extremely difficult left me feeling quite frustrated and helpless. That experience was a journey in its own right, not to mention what was happening at the hospital.
It was after one of Julie’s visits with the kids that Maddi, with her face turned to the wall, attempted a smile at South Davis Hospital. I had to roll her over to get a better view of her face. It didn't work out quite how she had hoped but I was one happy mamma!
One specific day, Julie listened to my, first spoken, heartache over leaving my teenagers at home in Logan. Having my loved ones stretched across 100 miles had taken its toll. I was so busy trying to keep all of the talk around Maddi positive that I hadn’t let myself release my fears and heartaches. Sitting with Julie in the café with its familiar setting, I dropped my first tears outside of my very private sobbing. Those of you who know me will understand the significance. I needed the release and the validation that she was able to give and I knew that she really meant it. She reminded me of what great kids I have and how strong and capable they are. Not that I had any doubts but that particular day I needed to hear it from someone else. She may not remember but my gratitude for that kindness is indescribable. I reflected back to her assurances many times over the following weeks anytime I felt conflicted. Thanks Julie for knowing; just what to say, when to say it and taking the time to be there.
These are just a sampling of the memories that washed over me tonight. It will take me many blog posts to document all of those moments but the behind the scene moments need to be written. Over and over again during this journey, people have been sent to me at just the right moment. It gives credibility and validity in my belief that the Lord knows us deeply and personally. He is aware of our deepest heartaches, longings and needs. He is ready and able to bless us in specifics even when we can’t ask and he provides those blessings in the exact way that we need it.
How has your sister blessed your life?